SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
The Best of Times,
the Worst of Times
The much-awaited time frame for holding the deferred ninth Parliamentary elections was conveyed in the April 12, 2007-address to the nation by the Chief Advisor to the Interim Government, Fakhruddin Ahmed. In the 22-minute address, the former governor of the Bangladesh Bank declared, "I would like to categorically state that we will not stay in power a day longer than it is necessary. I strongly believe, it will be possible to hold the much-awaited parliamentary elections before the end of 2008." The assurance appeared to have brought about a semblance of order to the utter confusion regarding the prospect of elections in the country. However, given the way the Army-backed Interim Administration has functioned since the country passed into Emergency rule in January 2007, it is nearly certain that parliamentary democracy in Bangladesh will never be the same again, in the increasingly unlikely event of its restoration.
The dynasties that Bangladeshi politics was identified with since the formation of the nation in 1971 are visibly on the ropes. On April 11, the leader of the Awami League (AL) and a former Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, was charged with the murder of four people in political violence in October 2006. Hasina is currently in the United States and has delayed her return, fearing arrest. Her bete noire, Begum Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Prime Minister till October 2006, was not so lucky. She is currently speculated to be under house arrest in capital Dhaka and is allowed to meet only four visitors a day. Matiur Rahman Nizami, a former Industries Minister and leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, has also been charged with involvement in October 2006 violence.
The demonstrated activism of the Interim Administration in Bangladesh has been the subject of intense debate. The Administration’s limited mandate to prepare the ground work for the elections, has been considerably widened under the emergency provisions, to initiate steps against endemic corruption and pervasive crime in the country, a step that has been described as a necessary precursor to a free and fair election. The Administration’s objectives were articulated in the Chief Advisor’s declaration of April 12: "Our aim is fixed. We want to bring the corrupt, abusers of power and serious criminals within the jurisdiction of existing laws as quickly as possible. …We will show zero-tolerance in this regard."
So far, more than 160 senior politicians, top civil servants and security officials have been arrested on suspicion of graft and other economic crimes. The roundup has not only netted former Ministers from both the BNP and the AL, but also Khaleda Zia's son, Tarique Rahman. Rahman, the General Secretary of the BNP and considered to be Khaleda Zia’s heir apparent in the Party, has been charged with extorting $147,000 from the owner of a Dhaka construction firm. The Government has also frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in bank accounts belonging to politicians — money it suspects was illegally obtained. A key partner in the anti-graft endeavour, the Bangladesh Bank, has said that it has information regarding the countries to which some corrupt people smuggled out their money, and the Bank is ready to initiate processes to recover the money.
Steps against corruption in a country that topped the Transparency International’s annual list of corrupt countries four times in the last five years (it ranked 156th out of 163 countries in 2006) is certainly good news, and explains the support that the Interim Administration has received from the country’s media, intellectuals and common populace. Newspaper polls suggest that a clear majority of Bangladeshis support the present Government. Indeed, the ‘emergency’ has emerged as the last resort for the weak, despairing, honest and powerless people in the country. The suspension of fundamental rights as well as political activity under emergency provisions, moreover, appears to have given the majority of the people a welcome break from the country’s bitterly polarized politics, unruly mass rallies, demonstrations and pitched street battles between the two main political formations. Thus, even the March 7, 2007, total ban on any form of political activity has also been widely welcomed.
There are, however, glaring indications that the Government’s massive reforms process to free the country’s politics and election from the influence of money and muscle, is overstepping its mandate. The April 11 move to charge AL leader Sheikh Hasina with murder and other offences committed during street demonstrations on October 28, 2006, has been seen as a move that was largely unnecessary. Similarly, the April 13 arrest of the former law minister in the last BNP government and BNP Standing Committee member, Barrister Moudud Ahmed, by the Army-led Joint Forces, from his house in the Gulshan locality of capital Dhaka, is being considered a step that did not even come under the purview of the anti-corruption moves. Ahmed, who also served as the country’s Prime Minister and Vice President under Gen. Muhammad Ershad’s military regime, has been booked under the Narcotics Control Act.
There are also indications that the Government is growing progressively intolerant of any criticism of its actions. On April 9, Tajul Islam Faruk, the chief of Westmont Offshore Limited, a Bangladesh-Malaysia joint venture power company filed an extortion case against Sheikh Hasina. The Westmont official complained that Sheikh Hasina, during her tenure in office (1996-2001), extorted over US $441,000 for approving the 40 megawatt power plant at Baghabari in the Sirajganj District. Interestingly, the complaint was lodged two days after the AL supremo, in an interview with BBC’s Bangla service, termed the Interim Administration of Fakhruddin Ahmed as ‘undemocratic and unconstitutional’. She stated, further, that the country could not be run under a state of emergency for an extended time.
Fakhruddin Ahmed, during his media interactions, has taken pains to explain that he is committed to holding parliamentary elections and has no intentions of overstaying his welcome. Unfortunately, the direction in which the country is heading was indicated in the April 2, 2007, assertion by the Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed. Presenting a keynote paper at the regional conference of the International Political Science Association held at Dhaka, the Army Chief declared that the country should not go back to being run by an "elective democracy". Moeen Ahmed, who was appointed to his present position by the BNP-led alliance Government on June 15, 2005, stated: "We do not want to go back to an elective democracy where corruption becomes all-pervasive, governance suffers in terms of insecurity and violation of rights, and where political criminalisation threatens the very survival and integrity of the state." He said Bangladesh would have to construct ‘its own brand of democracy’, "recognising its social, historical and cultural conditions, with religion being one of the several components of its national identity". He went on to define this ‘own brand of democracy’ as a ‘balanced government’, where power is not tilted towards any family or dynasty.
Lt. Gen. Moeen is widely speculated to have compelled President Iajuddin Ahmed to relinquish the Chief Advisor’s post in January 2007, which he had assumed in November 2006, after both the BNP and the AL failed to reach an agreement over a consensus candidate. Fakhruddin Ahmed is, moreover, rumoured to have been ‘handpicked’ as the Chief Advisor by Lt. Gen. Moeen. Sources also indicate that Moeen has successfully neutralised the President’s attempts to replace him, and has also thwarted pro-President officers like Major General Razzakul Haider Chowdhury, chief of the National Security Intelligence (NSI), and Brigadier General Abu Mohammad Sohel, chief of the President's Guard Regiment. The dominance of the Army Chief in the Interim Administration also explains the Army’s overbearing presence in the reconstituted National Security Council and the Central and District-based Anti-corruption Task Forces. The decision to hang the six convicted Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants on March 30, almost two weeks before their anticipated date of execution, is also believed to have been backed by the Army.
The dominance of the men in uniform in the Administration probably explains why the so called ‘good intentions’ of the Government have not included the actions of the Security Forces. A report of the human rights group, Odhikar indicated that, in the first three months of the state of emergency (January 12- March 12), 74 people were killed by law enforcers across the country. While 43 persons were killed by the Rapid Action Battalion, 16 were killed by the Police, six by the Army, six by the Army-led Joint Forces, two by the Navy and one by the officers of the Department of Narcotics Control. Nearly one-third of those killed were so called ‘left-wing extremists’.
Freeing Bangladesh from the endemic corruption and kleptocratic politics does provide an extraordinary opportunity for national reconstruction. However, the assumed responsibility to create a new, corruption-free society by fiat, and to steer the country towards meaningful elections, is looking more improbable by the day. There are clear indications that the current situation has created opportunities for the Army to consolidate its an vice-like hold over the Administration in a model that has an increasing resemblance to the military-political order in Pakistan. In these circumstances, it is not clear whether the Election Commission’s proposed Taka 350 crore (US $51 million) project for simultaneously preparing a voter list with photographs, national identity cards and introduction of e-governance in some selected organisations, will eventually bear fruit, and lead to the restoration of a credible democracy in Bangladesh.
Diffusion of Turmoil
That there is an intense conflict between the Pakistani state and forces of radical Islam is now certain. Large tracts of Pakistan are now clearly violence-afflicted with a wide array of anti-state actors engaging in varying degrees of armed activity and subversion. A cursory look at the map indicates that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Balochistan and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) are witnessing large-scale violence. Islamist extremist activities in parts of the Sindh and Punjab provinces have also brought these areas under the security scanner. The writ of the military regime under General Pervez Musharraf is currently being challenged vehemently – violently or otherwise – in wide geographical areas, and on a multiplicity of issues.
1471 persons, including 608 civilians and 325 Security Force (SF) personnel, died in terrorism/insurgency-related violence in Pakistan during year 2006. Crucially, this reflected well over a doubling in fatalities since 2005, when a total of 648 persons (including 430 civilians and 81 SF personnel) were killed in insurgent and terrorist conflicts. In the rapidly escalating trend, at least 639 people, including 212 civilians, 49 SF personnel and 378 militants, have already been killed in 2007 (till April 11). And the worst affected is Waziristan where an estimated 392 people, including 43 civilians, 11 soldiers and 338 terrorists, have died (till April 9).Fatalities in Terrorist Violence, 2007
Truth, more often than not, exists in the small print. The daily reports of incidents of insurgent and terrorist activities in Pakistan fail to communicate the enormity of the trajectory of violence and instability that has been undermining the authority of the state in progressively widening areas of the country over the past years. But when the numbers are put together, the emerging picture of cumulative attrition would be more than disturbing for Islamabad. Moreover, considering Islamabad’s efforts to stifle information flows from the areas of conflict, the total number of fatalities may, in fact, be considerably higher.
The Balochistan province – accounting for approximately 44 per cent of Pakistan’s landmass – is now afflicted by an encompassing insurgency, as are most parts of North and South Waziristan in FATA – another three per cent of the country’s total landmass. Gilgit-Baltistan has long been simmering, and it is only the repeated cycles of repression and state-backed Sunni violence that have kept the restive population in rein in a region that accounts for another eight per cent of the country. At least 55 per cent of Pakistani territory is, consequently, outside the realm of civil governance and is currently dominated essentially through military force. Further, fairly regular incidents of militant violence and subversion have been reported from diverse parts of the NWFP, Punjab and Sindh provinces, even as these continue to provide safe-haven to a broad assortment of jihadi groups and other anti-state actors. Most of the violence in Balochistan is, however, 'nationalist' and there is no co-operation between Islamist terrorists in pockets in the North and the Baloch insurgents. While the violence level in Balochistan has decreased after the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006, the insurgency, nevertheless, continues to simmer and there has been a steady stream of bomb and rocket attacks on gas pipelines, railway tracks, power transmission lines, bridges, and communications infrastructure, as well as on military establishments and governmental facilities.
Some of the major terrorism/militancy related incidents of 2007 include:
April 6-11: Approximately 113 people died in sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shia combatants in the Kurram Agency of FATA.
April 6: Pro-government tribesmen overran strategic bunkers occupied by the Uzbek-led foreign al Qaeda militants in South Waziristan, killing at least 20 people.
April 4: Approximately 50 persons were killed during clashes between pro-government tribesmen and foreign militants in South Waziristan. A tribal army led by Maulana Nazir, a pro-government Taliban commander, captured the strategic Sheen Warsak after an encounter in which 19 Uzbeks, five tribesmen and three paramilitary soldiers were killed. In a separate encounter in Zaghunday, north of Sheen Warsak, the tribal army killed 25 Uzbeks.
March 30: Pro-government tribesmen exchanged heavy rocket and mortar fire with foreign militants linked to the al Qaeda in South Waziristan for a second day, leaving 56 people dead. Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao claimed that the dead included 45 foreigners.
March 28: At least 25 Taliban militants and a soldier were killed in a gun-battle that continued for six-hours at Tank in the NWFP. Tank District Police Officer Mumtaz Zarin said troops killed at least 25 militants when more than 200 Taliban cadres attacked the city from all sides. Two police stations, a paramilitary fort and several banks were looted in the attack. Curfew was imposed in the city and the civil administration asked the Army for help in preventing the Taliban from taking control of the city.
March 26: A police officer and two attackers were killed, while 13 persons sustained injuries when suspected militants attacked a police station, an Armoured Personnel Carrier and Frontier Corps fort with hand grenades in the Tank city of NWFP.
March 21: Five Frontier Corps personnel were killed and four injured when insurgents ambushed their vehicle in the Bramcha area of the Chagai District in Balochistan.
March 19-22: Nearly 160 people, including 130 foreign militants, were killed in four days of fighting between al Qaeda-linked militants and pro-Government tribesmen in South Waziristan.
March 6-7: Approximately 19 people died and several others were wounded during a clash between the Wazir Zalikhel sub-tribe and foreign militants near Azam Warsak in South Waziristan.
February 20: An Islamist ‘fanatic’ shot dead the Social Welfare Minister of Punjab province, Zile Huma Usman, in an open court in her hometown of Gujranwala in Punjab province. Muhammad Sarwar, who was arrested immediately, is reportedly a religious fanatic opposed to women being independent, and had earlier been implicated in four murders and two attempted murders in Gujranwala. "He considers it contrary to the teachings of Allah for a woman to become a minister or a ruler. That's why he committed this action," the police stated.
February 17: Seventeen people, including a senior civil judge, were killed and 30 others injured in a suicide bombing in the District Courts compound of Quetta, capital of Balochistan.
February 6: A suicide attacker blew himself up in the car park of Islamabad airport, killing himself and injuring 10 people.
February 3: A suicide bomber drove his explosives-laden jeep into a military convoy, killing two soldiers and injuring seven others in the Barakhel area of Tank district in NWFP.
January 29: A suicide bomber killed two people at Dera Ismail Khan in NWFP. Assistant Superintendent of Police, Captain Hamad, said that the suicide bomber, wearing a black shawl, blew himself up as the police was searching him.
January 27: Fifteen people, including six police officials, were killed and 60 others injured in a suicide attack targeting a Muharram procession near Qasim Ali Khan Mosque in Peshawar, capital of NWFP. Peshawar police commissioner Mallik Muhammad Saad, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, three other police personnel and a Nazim (local official) were among those killed.
January 26: A suicide bomber blew himself up outside Hotel Marriott in Islamabad, killing a guard, Tariq Mehmmod, and wounding five persons. The suicide bombing occurred hours before a Republic Day function at the hotel hosted by India’s High Commission.
January 22: A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a military convoy near Mirali in North Waziristan, killing four SF personnel and a woman, and injuring 23 persons.
January 16: Pakistan Army helicopter gun-ships attacked a suspected militant hideout at Salamt village in South Waziristan, killing at least 20 militants.Sectarian Violence in Pakistan, 2007
The flag of extremist Islam is, thus, fluttering vigorously across Pakistan, even as the state gradually withers away. Among the multiple insurgencies currently raging in Pakistan, the bloodiest is under way in South Waziristan – and it is symbolic of the decline of the State. In three weeks of clashes there between pro-government militants and foreign militants, primarily Uzbeks – and with little direct Government presence or intervention – at least 332 persons are reported to have died. The military, which had earlier failed in area domination exercises, announced, on April 9, that the pro-Government tribesmen had ‘cleared’ the Azam Warsak area of foreign militants. An unnamed official stated that some 2,000 ‘tribal volunteers’ and militants allied to ‘commander’ Maulana Nazir entered Azam Warsak on April 9-morning and hoisted white flags. "With God’s help, we have forced Qari Tahir Khan and his supporters to flee," Mullah Owais Hanafi, a spokesperson for the tribal army led by Maulana Nazir, declared. Qari Tahir Khan is the local name for Tahir Yuldashev, leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Elsewhere in FATA, an estimated 113 persons were killed in sectarian violence that rocked Parachinar and other parts of the Kurram Tribal Agency on April 6-11. Sectarian clashes started on April 6-morning, when unidentified people opened fire at a Shia procession. Earlier, a Sunni procession had allegedly been pelted with stones and its participants abused. The use of heavy weapons by the combatants, including missiles, rocket launchers and mortars, was reported.
There is, moreover, now a clear dispersal of the violence linked to radical Islam across hitherto ‘peaceful’ areas. Violence and mobilization linked to Islamist extremists is now being reported from Swat, Nowshera, Tank, Peshawar, Hangu, Dera Ismail Khan, and other areas in the NWFP, Gujranwala and Multan in the Punjab province, many locations in Sindh province, and from the national capital, Islamabad. The writ of the state is clearly on the wane as seen in the March 28-incident when the Tank town in NWFP was attacked by a strong force of Taliban-linked militants, the first such incident in settled areas.
At the heart of this rapid march of radical Islam and dissident violence in Pakistan, and the consequent disorders of the past year and more, is the abysmal failure of President Musharraf’s much-vaunted "enlightened moderation". A fair indicator of the intensity of the problem is in the extremist movement currently being led by the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) and the Jamia Hafsa seminary in Islamabad. Incidentally, the two are located at a short distance from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters and Supreme Court in Islamabad. The sheer audacity of these two agents of radical Islam operating from the national capital, without any appropriate reaction from the security agencies, is baffling. The Lal Masjid brigade, among others, is demanding: rebuilding of the demolished mosques in Islamabad; immediate declaration of Sharia (Islamic law) in Pakistan; immediate promulgation of Quran and Sunnah in the courts of law; and "immediate discontinuation to declaring Jihad as terrorism by the Government as it is the great sacred religious duty of Muslims." The agitators have also given the Government a month to close brothels and music shops in Islamabad, and remove all advertisements depicting women. Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa are run by prominent clerics, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed and Maulana Abdul Aziz, sons of the slain (in 1998) cleric Maulana Abdullah, who reportedly patronised many jihadi groups.
Formally announcing the establishment of a parallel judicial system, the Lal Masjid, on April 6, 2007, vowed to enforce Sharia in Islamabad and threatened to unleash a wave of suicide bombers if the Government opposed them. Maulana Aziz threatened: "Our youth will commit suicide attacks, if the Government impedes the enforcement of the Sharia and attacks Lal Masjid and its sister seminaries." He also declared that his organization was supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and Waziristan and acknowledged that students of his seminary had joined the Taliban.
It is interesting to note the state response in this regard. At a meeting on April 9, Ministers and officials of intelligence agencies reportedly opposed a crackdown on the Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid. Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told the meeting, chaired by President Musharraf, that the Government could not afford the use of force against the seminary, since general elections were approaching. Intelligence officials reportedly argued that a crackdown would create a law and order situation in Islamabad and consequently strengthen Islamist extremists in the country. Javed Iqbal Cheema, Director-General of the National Crisis Management Cell, also opposed the use of force, "because we are already confronting difficult situations in Waziristan and Balochistan". Sources indicate that almost all participants at the meeting, including Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Law Minister Wasi Zafar and Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani, opposed a crackdown.
While the military regime’s capacity to maintain the writ of the state is gradually and clearly depleting, Gen. Musharraf’s problems are expected to multiply in an election year. In the past month, lawyers have organised strikes and demonstrations across Pakistan protesting the ‘suspension’ of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary. While Gen. Musharraf has alienated vast sections of the judiciary and the parliamentary parties in the run-up to elections, the rapid march of extremist Islam compounds his problems. Past experience in South Asia, including in India, has, moreover, shown that the recovery of geographical spaces, once anti-state violence escalates beyond threshold levels, is extraordinarily difficult. The preceding narrative is a clear indication that Gen. Musharraf has opened far too many fronts, his troops are overstretched, and there has been a comprehensive failure to control the widening insurgencies, sectarian strife and Islamist terrorist violence that now envelope large swathes of Pakistan.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 9-15, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
74 persons killed by law enforcers in three months of emergency: 74 people were killed by law enforcers and 1,39,059 were arrested across the country in the first three months of the state of emergency, declared on January 11, 2007, according to a report of the human rights group, Odhikar. New Age reports that of the 74 people killed between January 12 and April 12 by the security agencies, 43 were allegedly killed by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), 16 by the police, six by the army, six by the army-led joint forces, two by the navy and one by the officers of the Department of Narcotics Control. Eight of the 74 people were activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, three of the Awami League, four of the Janajuddha faction of the Purba Banglar Communist Party (PBCP), four of the PBCP, three of the Lal Pataka faction of PBCP, two of the Biplobi Communist Party, one of the New Biplobi Communist Party, two of the Gana Mukti Fauj, three of the Sramajibi Mukti Andolan and four of the Sarbahara Party, the report said. New Age, April 13, 2007.
Peace talks after Maoists lay down arms: The Centre has told the States that they could hold peace talks with Maoist groups, provided they laid down arms. At a conference of senior police officers of the nine States affected by Maoist activity in Hyderabad on April 13, 2007, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) offered to provide the States with all assistance to effectively deal with the problem. The nine Maoist-affected States are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. M.L. Kumawat, Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the MHA, praised the Andhra Pradesh model of policing to tackle Maoists, but regretted that Chhattisgarh accounted for 48 per cent of the country's Maoist violence. The Hindu, April 14, 2007.
Third Round Table Conference on Kashmir to be held in New Delhi on April 24: The third Round Table Conference (RTC) on Kashmir will be held on April 24, 2007, in New Delhi. This was stated by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in Jammu and April 13. He said a decision to this effect was taken at a meeting he had with Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on April 12 in which Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil was also present. He said the conference would discuss the recommendations of five Working Groups set up by the Prime Minister after the second Round Table on May 24, 2005 and provide yet another platform to representatives of political parties, ethnic groups and opinion leaders from all the three regions to deliberate upon all issues. The first two RTCs were held in April and May 2005. After the second RTC in Srinagar, five Working Groups on different subjects, including good governance, strengthening of the Centre-State relations, strengthening relations across the Line of Control, Confidence Building Measures to improve condition of people affected by militancy and economic development of the State were set up. While four Working Groups have completed their deliberations and submitted their reports, the group of Centre-State relations was likely to hold one or two more sittings to finalise its report. Daily Excelsior, April 14, 2007.
1300-1500 militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir: The Army said on April 11, 2007, that there were at least 1300 to 1500 militants currently operating in Jammu and Kashmir. "I don’t think Army can go back to barracks at this stage. Militants can take advantage of the situation. And, we can’t leave people under the shadow of gun and allow insurgents to operate", Northern Command’s General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) Lt Gen H. S. Panag said on the sidelines of a function for inauguration of Shakti Sadan (a home for militancy-affected women) at Reasi. "There are at least 1300 to 1500 militants operating in the State. A large number of trained militants in Pakistan are awaiting infiltration from across the border. Militants’ infrastructure in Pakistan is also intact", he said. Out of 1300-1500 militants operating in the State, nearly 40 per cent are Pakistanis from Punjab and Sindh, who have nothing to do with Jammu and Kashmir. "These militants are purely controlled by the ISI", he informed. Daily Excelsior, April 12, 2007.
Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) registered as a political party: The Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPN-M) registered itself as a political party at the Election Commission on April 10, 2007, to participate in the forthcoming Constituent Assembly election. The Maoist second-in-command Baburam Bhattarai said: "We have submitted our application for recognition as a political party at the Election Commission. Our party's official name will be Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists)." Nepal News, April 11, 2007.
Three-tier deployment along Afghan border: Pakistani security forces operating in South Waziristan have made a three-tier security deployment to stop cross-border infiltration by militants into Afghanistan, a senior military commander said in Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan, on April 11, 2007. He also said that Pakistan would shortly commence fencing of its borders along a 12-km stretch with Afghanistan to ‘choke off’ cross-border infiltration. "No regular movement is taking place between South Waziristan and Bermal of Afghanistan. It is very less; if at all there is any movement. If someone proves it through satellite imagery, I am responsible," Major Gen Gul Muhammad told a group of Pakistani and foreign journalists visiting the region. Gul, who commands Pakistani troops operating in most of the tribal region along the Afghan border, said he had made what he described as `coercive deployment’ of troops to stop cross-border infiltration. He disclosed that Pakistani forces had set up 33 check-posts along South Waziristan’s borders with Afghanistan, conducting regular patrolling, mostly through the night and sharing information with western forces across the border. Dawn, April 12, 2007.
45 persons killed in sectarian violence in FATA: At least 45 more people were killed during sectarian clashes in the Kurram Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on April 10-night and April 11 as Shia and Sunni combatants continued to attack each other’s villages with heavy weapons despite warnings of military action by the government against those refusing to stop fighting. For the sixth day, fighting occurred in most parts of the Kurram Agency bordering Afghanistan. Certain villages such as Inzari and Shiblan, which were hitherto peaceful, reportedly witnessed violent clashes. Two other villages, Jelamai and Chardiwar, were burnt and more than a dozen of their male inhabitants were shot dead. The highest number of casualties took place in Sadda, when missiles reportedly fired from Ibrahimzai village on April 10-night hit positions manned by Sunni fighters drawn from a army of Massozai, Orakzai and other tribesmen. Sources said 19 men were killed and 30 injured. Combatants in Sadda retaliated with heavy firing at Ibrahimzai, Balishtkhel and Sangina villages. There were reports of death of eight people in this attack on Balishtkhel. Jang, April 12, 2007.
Army seizes A-5 road in East: The Army gained full control of the 41-kilometre A-5 Badulla - Maha Oya – Chenkaladdy road on April 11-morning confining the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to around 150-square kilometers in the Thoppigala jungle. Security forces (SFs) estimate that there are around 300 to 350 LTTE cadres trapped inside the jungle. "We gained control of the A-5 road after 14 years. Clearing south of A-5 is a very significant military and humanitarian victory as we have now driven the LTTE out of the East and brought all civilians in Trincomalee, Ampara and Batticaloa districts (except for Thoppigala) under the security forces denying the LTTE any control over them", military spokesperson Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said. The operation launched by the SFs on February 24, 2007, to liberate the Batticaloa south, west and area south of Thoppigala jungle has cleared 700 square kilometers till April 11. Troops so far have controlled settlements like Koduvamadu, Thamparaveli, Pankudaveli, Illupayadichenai and Karadiyanaru south of the A-5 road in the Batticaloa district, he further said. Colombo Page, April 12, 2007.